A New Mission – for a new Future,

« rebirthing »

We live on borrowed time. We live hurtling towards the collapse of civilization, environmental breakdown and food shocks. Some are aware, and are hoping against hope that COP 26 will make the difference; some are not aware, wanting `normality’ to return. Climate breakdown is with us already, uncontrollable wild fires, heat domes, deaths from unprecedented heat, floods, droughts, ruined crops, migrations to escape from hunger. Whatever happens at COP 26 the global heating trajectory will continue to rise for a long time to come, with all that comes with it. How do we begin to respond?

How am I feeling about all this? How are you feeling? The climate and environmental emergency interrogates us emotionally, morally, pastorally and politically. Already there is a field of climate psychology which points us in a direction, both as individuals, communities and faith communities. In what moral and emotional landscape are we living? We were asked this at the recent NJPN Conference, `Action for Life on Earth – moment of truth’. We are really living a moment of truth. So easily we can become numb, indifferent, in denial, even if we recognise what is happening in our heads. We need to reconnect with our feelings, with our anger, anxiety, grief and horror at what is happening to the beautiful and vulnerable world, its creatures and it peoples. Look around you and see what is happening. We need to move through and beyond a deep depression and despair.

It will be a journey. It has been likened to crossing the Red Sea, or a Baptismal journey. To start with there needs to be spaces for listening, spaces where one by one, people can name what they are feeling, finding language, listening to their feelings and articulating them. They can be helped by others to draw out their fears and anxieties; then by reflecting together they will feel a measure of support. In Swanwick we did an exercise in threes along these lines; it brought balm, and reenergised the person who disclosed what was going on within her, as well as the other who helped her to speak her truth and the third who reflected back what she had heard.

Then we need to honour the task of grief and learn how to lament. Do exercises in befriending impermanence and mortality, acknowledging loss of the things we love: remembering the places that do not know love, bringing to mind our sorrows, ancestral grief, and recognising the harm that we, and those that went before us, have done; – all these have a place. If this can be translated into ritual and liturgy expressed together, it will be very powerful. Liturgies of confession and forgiveness will release energy for resistance and reconciliation. It is a task of reconnection where a person sinks to the bottom divesting his or herself of preconceptions and working though feelings, and there at the bottom reconnects with the source, to emerge with a new vision, creativity and energy. (see Theory U).

Listening can be an important tool of mobilisation. Already there are Climate Cafes where people can meet to talk and express their feeling about the climate and environmental emergency and find strength in being heard and being companions together in solidarity. Faith communities could really have a role here. The need for pastoral care will increase as climate chaos kicks in with the destruction of not only possessions, but security and identity. Liturgies too, could be created. We know we cannot do it all, we know too, that ultimately the world and all it holds is held in the providence and love of God. Faith communities can help to convey this to others. But a form of death will need to come before rebirth is possible.

We need to listen to young people. They know they will have to live with the consequences of these times, this today, whatever happens at COP 26. They are asking for understanding the multiple emergencies emerging, and more than that, the tools of how to live with it all. The emotional and moral journey described above could be very much part of this.


Jessica Gatty, ra


 Further information

Work that reconnects – Joanna Macey https://workthatreconnects.org/

Theory U  https://www.toolshero.com/leadership/theory-u-scharmer/

Renee Lerzman  https://www.ted.com/speakers/renee_lertzman

Richard Rohr    https://cac.org/everybody-grieves-weekly-summary-2021-08-07/

 From Independent Catholic News: –

`Paul Bodenham, the J&P worker in Nottingham and a trustee of Green Christian, ran a workshop on ‘Pastoral Care for Climate Distress’ which, in the words on one participant, « allowed people to explore their feelings thus freeing up action. » The workshop was an introduction to pastoral care for campaigners, church leaders and their congregations as we become aware of our collective climate trauma. Paul suggested that far from disabling us, these climate emotions are our greatest gifts right now. In them lie the energy we need: creativity, resilience, courage to win the future, and equanimity whatever the outcome’.



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